Wednesday 29 February 2012

What makes a good photograph?

I took this picture in the Bishop's Palace gardens in Chichester a while ago.
The bird is nicely central (tick) but the messy bits of sandwich used to attract it ruin the picture.

In selecting from the photos I've taken over the years I think I'm learning a bit about what makes a good photograph. That is a photograph that pleases other people as well as yourself. (Excuse me talking about something I've had no lessons in.) The right light is crucial. All those interior shots that make rooms look bigger and brighter than they really are. There's a certain time of day, as it's getting light but not completely light that seems a good time for me to take a photo.

The photos on my blog vary in quality enormously but I am guessing that in selecting photos to share it will be the well lit close ups of flowers, indoors and out,the arrangements of pretty bric-a-brac and colourful handmade pieces that will be the most popular. And on this particular blog the statistics tell me it's the photos of clothes that people like the best.
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Tuesday 28 February 2012

I Love Liberty!

I've been hoarding these old Liberty fabrics for years. This week I'll make with them.
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Monday 27 February 2012

Hollyhocks at Sheet

This picture was taken in the summer. It's amazing how the plants grow vigorously with no soil to speak of, the old wall acting as their support.
'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' written by Deborah Moggagh is a film I want to see. The idea is that older people (or as the author says those that are 'very grown up indeed') might prefer to live in a hotel in India rather than a British care home. India because it is hot and somewhere that older people are still respected, even revered, for their wisdom and life experience.

I have noticed that after a certain age, unless we demand to be noticed, we seem to become invisible to others and what is worse, some of us don't seem to mind. I agree with Dylan Thomas who said, 'Rage, rage against the dying of the light.' Whatever age we are, male or female, we have as much right as the next person (or politician) for our voice to be heard. The generation that, as children, were told to be 'seen but not heard' has got some raging to do.

Let's look at alternatives for our parents, for ourselves, so that we don't inevitably end our lives in care homes.
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Sunday 26 February 2012

Tricot Designs closes in March

Out of Xile velvet coat in the Arundel shop.

As it says on the window - it's the 'end of an era'. After Tricot Too, Petersfield closed in August last year, Tricot Designs in Arundel is also to close in the middle of March. There are so many fans of the unusual clothes these shops stocked. For a last chance to buy, make a trip to Tarrant Street, Arundel before March 17th.
These pictures inside Tricot Designs shop were taken a while ago. I worked for Tricot Too and would occasionally do holiday cover in the Arundel shop. Loved it.

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Saturday 25 February 2012

New! Henry Ascoli's postcards

Yesterday some rather special postcards went on display in the shop.Local photographer and journalist Henry Ascoli makes his pictures into postcards using top quality textured card. Pictured are two examples. £1-25 each. These are postcards that could be framed and remind me of some of the better photographs in Country Living magazine.
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Friday 24 February 2012

Making more buttons

 My handmade, machine washable buttons.

It's the brightly coloured ones and the black and white ones that sell first in the shop.
I've been making buttons for more than twenty years. Ever since I saw some curious looking beads with patterns on them when visiting my sister in law in the States. They were under a glass counter. I remember asking what they were made from but for some reason I didn't buy any.

 Once home I tried making something along the same lines. At first beads then buttons. I used to make necklaces where all the beads were handmade. Very individual.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Pretty printed tissue papers

 All the above tissue packs are on sale at Handmade Happiness, £2-20 each
Anyone who looked at this blog yesterday will have seen I had trouble posting. I've had to change my browser to Google Chrome because suddenly Internet Explorer wasn't acceptable. My clever son, who advised me says Google Chrome is the future so I'm ok with that. 
I find as I get older I like what I know. You get used to doing things in a certain way and 'If it ain't broke, why fix it?'

Is anyone else getting bombarded with emails from Linked In? I am finding it annoying because when someone you know asks you to be 'linked in' with them it seems rude to refuse. On the other hand I've never been much of a joiner. Even at brownies I was involved in a sit down strike because we all thought it was silly and didn't want to go any more. 

But this Linked In - what is it all about? How does it benefit you to be 'linked' to all these people you may know or not know? Two of my friends have told me they didn't actually send me invitations to be 'linked in' although I received them.

 When, a few months ago a friend invited me to join this organisation I held back from giving them all but the minimum information about myself. I don't know why. But all this sharing of private info and photos (eg.Facebook) makes me uncomfortable. Like the basis for a science fiction novel. You could argue - why is she sharing photos and information on this blog then? I guess I'm comfortable as long as it's only me in control of what is out there...What do you think?

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Glorious wool and the book

Yesterday, Monday, I had a lovely day walking and browsing. I saw these beautiful wools in Hobbycraft in Havant. The two in the picture above which I bought are sock yarns by Regia and the four below, which I didn't buy are Rowan yarns designed by Kaffe Fassett and each ball is enough for a scarf.

I also bought the book pictured - Really Wild Tea Cosies by Loani Prior which I have wanted for months. Slightly disappointing to find that nearly all the designs are made with two sets of circular needles. I am not adept at circular needles but guess that practice makes perfect...!

Monday 20 February 2012

Make Your Own Gift Bags

Make these following the instructions below.
Ingredients above: One free thick paged catalogue,one glue stick and a thick book.
Tear out three pages and glue the overlapping edges as above.
 Have around an inch or 2cms overlap.
Now lay your book in the middle with the top of the book at the top of the middle page, wrap it up like a present, glueing the side edges having cut off excess paper. Leave the top end open. Fold in the base as below:
Above is what the base looks like when you've folded the paper round the book.
Glue the edges. Actually I reinforced this triangular end with some clear sellotope.

To make the two handles tear out another two pages, one for each handle.
With the long straight edge next to you fold the page inwards by around an inch (2 cms) and fold again, four times to make a thick handle as pictured above. Cut and glue. (You'll have about a third of the page unused.)

Fold the strip in half to see the centre then fold again twice at the same distance from the centre, as above. Glue around half of the length of the handle to the carrier bag. Same on both sides and the other handle matching at the back. Done.

Don't carry anything breakable in these bags. I haven't tested how much weight they'd bear but I guess it's not a lot! They are fun to make and will be useful in the shop. I'm hoping to make enough so I don't have to buy in paper carriers.
If you feel like making bags with me I'll do a free workshop on them tomorrow, Tuesday, at the shop from 11am to 12 noon.

Sunday 19 February 2012

Re-cycling - keep it simple!

Envelope and card and handmade poster for Handmade Happiness.

 In this month's Country Living magazine there's a how to make envelopes from wallpaper offcuts feature. (Wallpaper is a good idea for envelopes as it's nice and stiff and will achieve a good finish.) But how many readers will have pieces of unwanted wallpaper lying around waiting to be recycled? Not many.

But the real problem is that the hand made wallpaper envelopes photographed in the magazine cannot be used because there is nowhere to write an address on them, they are covered in bold pattern. So a sticky label or just a piece of white paper cut into a rectangle and glued on should be the last, vital final step! 

In a post I wrote earlier about making your own envelopes I think I say that magazine pages and in particular the covers of Country Living magazine make very fine envelopes!

Yesterday, it being a rainy day and therefore quite quiet in the shop,  I made carrier bags. Actually wallpaper would make excellent handmade carrier bags! But as I didn't have any to hand I used a free M & S catalogue instead. Photo and instructions coming up!

Saturday 18 February 2012

New! Printed tissue papers

All six designs are pictured at the top of the window above. 
I used a bit of the 'Liberty' print tissue in this poster.
You may  be a bit disappointed with the quality of these photos. Sorry. I'll try to remember to take a close up shot of the new tissue papers in the shop today.

By the way I've been adding blog recommendations to the 'Nice to Look At' list on the right. Check them out when you've got a moment. What blogs do you enjoy looking at?

Friday 17 February 2012


Love this little bird by Abigail Brown, torn from a magazine.

Feels like we're all waiting for Spring at the moment. And I'm waiting to see if my little shop, started four months ago can be a success. These are the toughest months - January til March when people don't feel comfortable spending any money.

I'm learning a lot. Like it's often the customers who love the shop the loudest that spend nothing. My favourites are those treasures who come in regularly with their quiet friendship and always buy something - even if it's only a card or some buttons. Those are the ones who will ensure I can pay the quarterly rent in March.

On a more cheerful note the lovely printed tissues arrived yesterday. I immediately hung them in the window!
I love the Liberty print tissue and the birds, the black toile de jouy and the line drawn flowers. I'll take a picture of them today to show you tomorrow!

Thursday 16 February 2012

Treating yourself!

Pretty tin on one of Gayle Bicknell's silk scarves available at Handmade Happiness

So the postman failed to stop by on Tuesday of this week. Therefore a small treat for self seems only fair!

 I saw these gorgeous tins in Waitrose alongside the fresh rose petals I wrote about earlier.  But they were £7.99 each which was too big a stretch. However yesterday they had been reduced to £3.99 and I bought one. Aren't half price treats great?!

I figure this will make a pretty sewing materials tin for the shop. And in time it will become a collectable antique!

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Tricot style

When Tricot Too closed last August it left a big gap in the market.

 Handmade Happiness customers who used to shop there can't find clothes like those pictured locally. The labels Myrine and Me, Out of Xile, Avoca, Rimini, Laurel Vidal, are not often stocked by other stores.

Buying was done in Europe and the distinctive Tricot layered look was totally different to anything found in the High Street. It catered for people wanting a very individual look. Although the prices were a bit high for most pockets hundreds of women shopped at Tricot Too during the twice yearly sales.

 And the good thing about clothes like these is that because they are outside of fashion they never look dated; they are timeless and can be worn for ever.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Ideas and plans

Foggy picture because it's taken through glass. My felt heart and Kate Hackett's ceramic hearts.

Happy Valentine's Day!
And lots of (virtual) red roses and chocolates to you!
These are my ideas and plans for the shop at the moment:
Thinking ahead I want handmade clothes in the shop. Just one rail with maybe sample dresses and knitwear on. I want to use the window more imaginatively. I want to involve visitors more in making maybe through having drop in creative sessions regularly which would possibly be free of charge. I need to do more (free) advertising and I need to make a lot more of the stock myself.  I am learning a lot about what works and what doesn't work as I go along. It is absorbingly fascinating!

Monday 13 February 2012

Love is all you need

 Looking through the window at Handmade Happiness

This Valentine's Eve I'm thinking about love. Not just romantic love but all the different kinds of love. We love our families and our friends and hopefully the jobs we do. 
 Recently I've realised that if we try to love everyone and everything  life is so much easier and more pleasant. I've decided to stop complaining and try instead to love the things I complain about. Take houses for instance. I think if you love your home and everything in it somehow it will co-operate and become truly loveable! This is probably obvious to you but to me it has come as something of a revelation!

Sunday 12 February 2012

Threading rose petals

 Handmade Happiness yesterday from outside and inside.

Yesterday I saw bags of fresh rose petals for sale at a supermarket on the way in to work. So I spent the first couple of hours in the shop threading rose petals to hang in the window. It was lovely to handle real petals when the temperature was freezing or below. I felt oddly like I was in a fairy tale. Which was it when hay was spun into gold all night long?

I am shocked to see today that Whitney Houston has died at the young age of 48. Tragic and sad. Like Amy Winehouse, her wonderful voice lives on. 

Saturday 11 February 2012

Miniature bunting

Looking at bunting is very cheering. It's a celebration of life!

That's why I'm thinking wouldn't it be great to have miniature bunting you could pin up on a noticeboard; stick on the top of a letter to a friend; sellotape to shelf edges etc. And cut small like that bunting could be made of anything - painted papers/ gift wrap/ cellophane sweet wrappers.

A while ago I posted a picture of Jane's shed where she had made bunting from the covers of Country Living magazines. It looked great!

Miniature bunting - yes, an ideal way to use those scraps of fabric too pretty to throw away. If you see me on the sewing machine in the shop on Monday that's what I'll be making!
By the way, after this Monday the shop will not be open on Mondays until warmer weather comes.

Friday 10 February 2012

Very special ribbon

I can't remember whether my mother or my grandmother gave me this ribbon. I have two bundles of it in different colourways. I know it is very old because my grandmother had it in her sewing box ever since my mother can remember. It is very beautiful, shot with gold, and I can't imagine ribbons being woven with this level of complexity any more.

My grandmother was a tailoress. She also had that rare skill of being able to look at a photograph in Vogue, then cut a pattern and create an outfit for my mother looking very like it. I wish I had known her better.

For years I have thought this ribbon too good to use but for this Valentine's Day I have used small pieces in the boxes and cards.

Do you store things up feeling you will use them someday but you don't know when?

Thursday 9 February 2012

Spread the love!

Valentine's cards £2.50; painted and collaged heart boxes £3.50 by Jenny Stacy at Handmade Happiness.

Yesterday was the coldest day wasn't it? I can't ever remember feeling quite that cold before. At lunchtime I  bought a take out hot chocolate from Costa which was wonderfully warming. Funny how you appreciate things more when you are cold. Not so funny how the brain slows up and you find you can't get things done.
I just knitted yesterday. Today I want to be more business like!

Last night we had a great sing at choir. We're doing Eva Cassidy/Sting's number 'Fields of Gold' which is beautiful; 'Hallelujah' by Leonard Cohen and 'Joyful joyful' from Sister Act 2. After next week which is half term we start on three new songs. Can't wait! 

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Knitting for newborns

These tiny clothes (there are poppers under the tiny mother of pearl buttons on the cardigan) will go into the window of Handmade Happiness today. I've enjoyed knitting them but it will be nice to do a bit of felt making now.
I also need to make some more dolls but I am having difficulty finding the right
cotton or calico for them. Calicos all seem to have tiny black spots in them which would not be suitable.  

Yesterday I was pleased to welcome Angie who owns Tricot Designs in Arundel and who used to co-own Tricot Too, where I worked, in Petersfield. As I said to her it was a bit like waiting for the Ofsted inspector. I value her opinion.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

New cushions

Three cushions made by Pam Dew using Kaffe Fassett fabrics.

I love this top cushion. I used to think yellow and orange were impossible to wear and difficult colours to have in the home.I didn't tolerate them in the garden either. But I'm beginning to change my mind. Yellow and orange look great as lemons and oranges in a fruit bowl. And this top cushion could make you change your whole room scheme. The cushion at the bottom of the picture is square and matches the round cushion above it. The yarn is spun and dyed by Michelle Green.

Well yesterday in the shop I made some Valentine's cards. Half way through the morning a man came in...and asked me why the computer shop next door was closed. Then towards lunchtime a customer bought a mug. I went home as planned but returned after an hour and a half in time for a mother who bought £1.50 worth of buttons for her two little girls.
Therefore after next Monday when I have a friend visiting from Kent who wants to make stuff with me in the shop, I will be closed on Mondays until the weather gets better!

Monday 6 February 2012

To be (there) or not to be there

It's Monday and I'm wondering about shop opening times. Up until now I've been happy to open six days a week with Sunday as the day off. But to be honest Mondays can be very quiet, and my neighbouring shop, Tara Wake Interiors doesn't open on Mondays. So today I will be open as usual until lunchtime then I'll leave a note on the door so anyone passing can ring me if they want to look around.
I guess that now I've said that I might just get the busiest Monday ever!!

Sunday 5 February 2012

Only in England....

 Once again snow is the major news story this morning with the possibility of flights being cancelled and motorists being stuck on motorways. Er, excuse me for saying but isn't snow just a regular part of winter ie. an annual event?

I think it's time we got used to snow and put in measures to deal with it so that every time the white stuff came it didn't send the country into a panic. We can learn how countries with much deeper snow than ours every year cope with it. Fitting snow chains on car tyres for example? Owning a pair of snow boots for slippery pavements?
By the way, the picture above was taken just over a year ago. With only a light dusting of snow here today it wouldn't make for an interesting enough photo.

Yesterday a very cold American came into the shop. She had just spent three hours standing on a stone floor in her village church 'guarding the bells'.  Apparently there is a rotor of bell guardians because other churches have had bells stolen for scrap metal. Only in England...but you've got to love it! 

Saturday 4 February 2012

Wonderful washi!

This week I received a much anticipated parcel of Japanese 'washi' tapes in the post from America. I ordered them from etsy a while ago. Aren't they pretty?

I bought a couple from John Lewis two  years ago but I don't think they've had them in since. Does anyone know of a good stockist in this country?
I would love to sell them in the shop but these particular ones would be too expensive to sell on. They'll be used (in small doses) in collage and to seal tissue paper on purchases in the shop. 

Friday 3 February 2012

Knitted cupcakes and ribbons

Cupcakes knitted by Rebecca Snelling.

Recent additions to the shop include these fun cup cake pin cushions and reels of ribbon.

Cupcakes are £12.50 each. Ribbons, left to right are celery silk 60p a yd; thin red double sided satin 30p a yard and twisted ombre £1-00 a yard.

It's after 7am and it's still dark outside. Even in this bitter cold I like to have the bedroom window open at night but in these weather conditions it feels like 'The Ice Hotel' in Norway. A friend has stayed in this wonderful place.

Every year the hotel is re-built - everything, furniture, chandeliers is carved from ice. Reindeer skins are on the 'beds'. At nighttime apparently the staff zip you up into a specially warm sleeping bag with only your face showing. She says she slept really well.

Maybe that's the answer then. Sleeping bags under the duvet.
What do you think? Share your experiences/ tips on coping with extreme cold by clicking on the comments below.

Thursday 2 February 2012

Frosty mornings

Are you managing to keep warm? It seems too cold to snow right now. From the perspective of the desk in Handmade Happiness where I spent the day making Valentine's heart boxes yesterday, the world has gone into hibernation. No-one comes into the shop. If they venture out at all they do what shopping they have to do and then hurry for home. I would do the same if I were them. It's too darn cold to focus on much else other than keeping warm.

This morning I have put all my Liberty fabrics into the washing machine. I have collected these precious scraps for years now and there's no point them sitting in bags any longer. They'll either be sold or be used to make things for sale.
They won't be used in bunting. Too special for that. But with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in June yards of bunting will be needed. And Handmade Happiness will be the place to buy it!!